Burn, flop, call, fold! Such poker terms were up in the air on Friday, March 1, as former Bulldog and University of Redlands alumni Darren Elias, 32 years old, returned to his alma mater
Students and faculty of the university, as well as community members from around Redlands, joined together to ask Elias, a professional poker player, questions about the extremely competitive and tactful game of poker. Questions ranged from Elias’ involvement during his time at Redlands to detailed explanations of strategies in poker, even leading to a play-by-play video of a tournament Elias competed in.
Elias grew up in Medford, New Jersey, and flew out to attend the University of Redlands in 2004. Sharing his time as an undergraduate student, Elias told about his academic and athletic career paths. Elias graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing, competing on the water polo and swim teams for his first couple of years on campus. Nevertheless, the pro poker player shared that his true passion, or obsession, during this time was the card game that he was soon to find out would be his primary source of income.
“I was like a part-time student. My parents didn’t want me to drop out,” Elias said.
Elias stated that most of his time went to practicing against online bots and competing online in poker tournaments. During Elias’ second year at Redlands, he won $10,000 in an online poker tournament. It was after this victory that Elias discovered just how addicted to poker he was. However, Elias shared that his addiction became something that taught him the importance of exercising self-restraint and skill/focus development. Elias also informed the audience about the knowledge he has since gained from poker, primarily psychological.
Within the realm of poker, one may expect that psychology is prominent. However, Elias informed the audience of other aspects, such as race, gender, and bodily behaviors. Elias then shared about his experiences with each, stating that most people would think that mathematics is more important. Yet, Elias mentioned that at the moment:
“[the mathematics] is in your head, but you just have to include the psychology, thinking ‘is he the type of player to bluff?’ Most of the time, with the players I play with, the answer is yes.”
Elias spoke of his friendships within the social sphere of poker, after being inquired about his relationships with other players. Elias told that most of his friends, some of which he met during his time at Redlands, are poker players themselves but informed the audience of the level of personal difficulty added on to competing against his friends. Given that both he and his friends are competing for financial success,
“You just have to disconnect and focus on the present,” Elias advised.
Although he mentioned it is awkward to play against those he knows so well, Elias expressed how much depth is added to the game when he does compete against acquaintances. The Redlands alumni told of how he is better able to predict bluffs and play styles from friends.
Elias’s advisory answers to many questions were extremely insightful and, when taken out of context from poker, can be applied to everyday life. Elias, intentionally or not, shared his wisdom with the near 30 people that came to meet him. He told of the benefits that come from not being fearful of those who may be ahead of oneself on a given path, the motivation to be a better player/person than one was yesterday and the growth that comes when one challenges oneself with more difficult goals.
Elias informed the crowd that an “escape plan,” as many may call it, for the shifty success that comes with gambling is not something he has thought through. However, Elias expressed a desire to write again. But a ‘How to be a Poker Pro’ book is not what this Bulldog is after.
Instead, Elias hopes to write a fictional piece, reworking his own experiences and knowledge of the competitive card game that has grown into a powerful passion of his. Elias has also pondered writing a self-help book. Elias mentioned his thoughts on the possibility of his return to the University of Redlands in the future, perhaps to teach a course on poker or to celebrate the release of his own published work. Elias wrapped up his session by splitting the small crowd into groups and playing poker with current undergraduate students and faculty, as well as Redlands community members.
Photo contributed by Redlands Bulldog photographer Miracle Cariaga.